Remarks to Leaders of Voluntary Groups on United States Assistance for Lebanon

January 7, 1983

The President. I know one of the trials and tribulations of this job is that I come in here and I know there are longtime friends -- and I get to say hello to some of you -- but then you watch, I'll have to go out that door, and I won't really get to stay and visit. But I'm happy to welcome you all here today.

I want to say how important your work is to the difficult task of rebuilding war-torn Lebanon. And as the people of Lebanon begin to rebuild their nation, the United States stands behind their efforts. Moreover, we're committed to helping restore the government's sovereignty throughout all of Lebanon.

You here today represent organizations that are based on selfless American tradition of helping our friends in time of need. And you also demonstrate your confidence in the resiliency of the Lebanese private sector and its ability to restore a strong Lebanon economically. And I agree that that's a great source of progress and hope.

I'm pleased that we could bring you all here today. Before I go, let me say the spirit of voluntarism that your organizations reflect is a remarkable tribute to the altruism that is found here in this land of ours. And I wish you every success in what you're doing, and God bless you and thank you for it.

Mr. Younes. [Sleiman Younes, Counselor of the Embassy of Lebanon.] Mr. President, Mr. Secretary,[Secretary of State George P. Shultz], distinguished friends of Lebanon:

It is for me a privilege and a great honor to convey to you the following message of President Amin Gemayel.

``Mr. President, Distinguished Guests: I wish, first, to thank President Reagan for his commitment to save Lebanon from the dangers that face it and to help it in the . . . reconstruction effort that lies ahead. The convening in the White House of representatives of private volunteer organizations, and of distinguished American citizens, for the purpose of deliberating on Lebanon, is an expression of concern on your part, which we greatly appreciate.

``The Lebanese people, who have suffered unparalled losses in life and in property, now look with hope to a brilliant future. . . . This hope . . . hangs almost exclusively on the commitment of President Reagan to save the valiant Lebanese democracy from the external dangers that face it. This is a great challenge, but greater still is the reward. The historical friendship between the American and the Lebanese peoples, is now stronger than ever. This is so because as free and democratic peoples our destiny is one. We share with you the values of family ties, of religious orientation, of democratic institutions, of a free and dignified personal existence, of tolerance, of private enterprise, and of genuine and lasting universal peace.

``As we look for the future, we must start from the existing facts. Our country is occupied. We need your help to liberate it. Discussions on withdrawal of foreign forces are proceeding slowly. We need your help in accelerating them. Our cities and villages are devastated. We need your expertise and planning for the reconstruction to rebuild them. . . .

``May I again express, Mr. President, the gratitude of the Lebanese people for your personal concern for their destiny, and may I thank all of you, gathered here in this room, to help my country in alleviating its sufferings, in building its economy, and in finding its rightful place in the pantheon of nations.''

Thank you.

The President. I can't help but mention something of which I was very proud, when our marines went into the multinational force. And I think it's symbolic of what we're seeing right here. And that is, our marines landed and then raised aloft on the flagpole the flag of Lebanon. And that is their concern.

Now they tell me I have to go, but I shall turn you over to Peter McPherson, the Director of AID [Agency for International Development].

Danny -- --

Mr. Thomas. Glad to see you, Mr. President.

Mr. Younes. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. Yes, sir.

Mr. Thomas. Mr. President?

The President. Yes?

Mr. Thomas. I haven't touched you since you've been President. [Laughter]

The President. I have said of Danny Thomas, he is one of the great statesmen in the show business world. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 1:50 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.